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Life in the Roman Empire

In a Roman town, people crossed the street by stepping stones. Fresh water was fetched from a public tap.Roman streets were laid out in a grid pattern around the forum, a central meeting square. The basilica, or town hall, and a large public temple overlooked the forum. Each town would have its own bathhouse, theatre, amphitheatre and circus (race circuit). There were also lots of shops, bars, restaurants and craft workshops. Farmers from the countryside brought their produce into the towns to sell at the market. Wealthy Romans lived in comfortable, spacious townhouses or countryside villas, but poor people lived in small and cramped apartments, called insulae.



This 4th-century AD Roman mosaic from Tunisia shows a woman from a patrician family. She is looking into a mirror held up for her...Read More >>This 4th-century AD Roman mosaic from Tunisia shows a woman from a patrician family. She is looking into a mirror held up for her by a slave girl.

Patricians and plebeians

Roman citizens were divided into two groups. Those descended from noble families were called patricians. All other citizens were plebeians. Gradually a third class emerged, called equestrians (those with enough wealth to provide their own horse). These citizens formed a middle order between patricians and plebeians. 

The Romans did not have weekends, but they did have about 120 public holidays each year. Citizens would celebrate by going to the theatre or to a chariot race or gladiator fight.

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